While Schools Get Broadband the Rest of Brazil May Have to Wait a Long Time

Brazilian InternetLaunched in April 2008 by Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Broadband in Schools program, celebrates its second anniversary moving closer to its goal of putting rapid Internet access in all of Brazil’s 64,879 urban public schools. At the moment, 66% of the target has been reached (over 45,000 schools) and it is now believed that all the target schools will be served by the end of this year, benefiting 37 million students.

A report from the telecommunications regulatory agency – Anatel – shows that the work is progressing fastest in the most densely populated states: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia.

The work is slower in more distant, less populated states, such as  Roraima, Amapá and Acre, but the government it will be completed on schedule.

Broadband connections are being installed in the schools at zero cost to the government due to an agreement reached with fixed-line operators who will no longer have to install phone services (“Postos de Serviços de Telecomunicações”) in every municipality by 2010. Instead, they will install a broadband network that covers the whole country.

Meanwhile, Lula’s decision on a National Broadband Plan (PNBL) expected this Thursday has been postponed for at least a week. After meeting with seven ministers (Communications, Culture, Planning, Education, Civil House, Science and Technology, and Social Communication) and the presidents of the BNDES (National Bank of Economic and Social Development), Eletrobrás and Anatel, the Brazilian leader asked that some additional studies be done fast, especially concerning some legal aspects.

Lula said that the plan wasn’t quite ripe yet and needed more studies. He wants the company that will manage the broadband network across the country to have a social impact and to not be another focus of governmental expenses. Lula also refutes the critics of the program saying the plan is a “development tool.”

The president made it clear that he doesn’t wish the high-speed Internet program to be a burden for the government. He is afraid that choosing Telebras to manage the plan, for example, may result in expenditure, since the federal government would need to assume the debt of the state company, which was privatized in July 1998.

The PNBL, which started to be discussed in September 2009,  provides for the deployment until 2014 of high-speed Internet in 4278 municipalities in the country. An initial pilot project would serve 300 cities.

ABr/Bzz

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